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BUSH WATCH...celebrating our 10th year.

"The transmogrification of an upstart people’s candidate for ‘change’
into just another front man for the corporatocracy will [soon] be complete."

...and McBush is even worse.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. --Pete Townsend

"I can't count the number of emails I've received demanding that I stop criticizing Obama for his support of this bill on the ground that such criticisms harm his chances for winning -- as though it's the fault of those who point out what Obama is doing, rather than Obama himself for completely reversing his position, abandoning his clear, prior commitments, and helping to institutionalize the destruction of the Fourth Amendment and the concealment of Bush crimes." --Gleen Greenwald,

Obama Watch... McBush Watch... Our Recent Ed/Op-Ed... Our Top Stories... 100+ More Today's Stories... Op-Ed Roundup... contact us...

Top World Stories: Friday August 01, 2008:

U.S.: Suspect In Anthrax Killings Reportedly Kills Self, AP
U.S.: Anthrax Gv. Scientist About To Be Arrested Found Dead, LAT
U.S.: Judge rules former White House counsel must testify on firings , The Public Record
U.S.: Economic growth rate falls short of forecasts, Bloomberg
U.S.: America is already committing acts of war against iran, AlterNet
U.S.: Bush pushes oil drilling, but more US fuel exported, Guardian
U.S.:  US economy suffers first fall in six years, Times
U.S.:  Schwarzenegger moves to end budget crisis in California by sacking 22,000 state workers, BBC
U.S.:  California and five other states to 'sue EPA on emissions', BBC
U.S.:  Better security allows Bush to cut Iraq troops and length of deployment, Guardian
U.S.:  US courts offer little justice for curious British hacker now facing trial as terrorist, Guardian
U.S.:  Obama dismisses McCain ad attack, BBC
U.K.:  British nuclear plans in chaos as French firm EDF backs out, Times
EUROPE:  Day of reckoning for Karadzic, Independent
ASIA:  Afghanistan spiralling back to days of Taliban, say charities, Independent
ASIA: The Bad Side to the 'Good War', Asia Times
ASIA: China Strengthens its Role in Kyrgyzstan, Asia Times
ASIA: Anwar Announces for Malaysia’s Parliament, Asia Sentinel
ASIA: China Angered by U.S. Lobbying on Rights, NYT
AFRICA: Ghana: 'You Have to Speak Up When Competition Destroys You', IPS
AFRICA: South Africa: Report Says Sex Work Should Be Decriminalised, Mail & Guardian Online
AFRICA: Zuma Setback in Corruption Case, BBC News
WORLD:  Climate fear as giant ice sheets break off Arctic shelf, Times
BUSH WATCH:  Volunteer Editor(s) Needed For Middle East, South America

100+ More Today's Stories

Thursday, July 31

McBush Sells Out: Rove Aides Now Running Campaign of Lies, Distortions, Slime, NYT Ed, NYT Board

Well, that certainly didn’t take long. On July 3, news reports said Senator John McCain, worried that he might lose the election before it truly started, opened his doors to disciples of Karl Rove from the 2004 campaign and the Bush White House. Less than a month later, the results are on full display. The candidate who started out talking about high-minded, civil debate has wholeheartedly adopted Mr. Rove’s low-minded and uncivil playbook....

Mr. McCain used to pride himself on being above this ugly brand of politics, which killed his own 2000 presidential bid. But he clearly tossed his inhibitions aside earlier this month when he put day-to-day management of his campaign in the hands of one acolyte of Mr. Rove and gave top positions to two others. The résumés of the new team’s members included stints in Mr. Bush’s White House and in his 2004 re-election campaign, one of the most negative and divisive in memory.

Almost immediately, the McCain campaign was using Mr. Rove’s well-honed tactics, starting with an attempt to widen this nation’s damaging ideological divide by painting Mr. Obama as a far-left kook. On July 18, Mr. McCain even suggested that Mr. Obama is a socialist to the left of the Senate’s only avowed socialist: Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Mr. Obama’s politics are hardly far-left, and anyone who has spent time in a socialist country knows how ridiculous that label is for any member of Congress. It would be bad enough if Mr. McCain honestly believed what he said, but we find that hard to imagine.

...But a new McCain ad has just emerged that really sets a new low. What exactly is the point of comparing Barack Obama to celebutantes like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton? Do Mr. McCain’s strategists actually think they can win the White House by whining incessantly about how popular their opponent is? What sort of message is that? “Vote for McCain. Nobody Likes Him.” Mr. Obama has achieved incredible things, including winning a decisive victory in the Democratic primaries — even in states where the wise men once were certain a black presidential candidate could never win.

This ad, which smacks of desperation, would be bad enough it could be dismissed as mere silly schoolyard name-calling....But it has more sinister overtones, a ham-handed attempt to belittle Mr. Obama as a person that brings back unpleasant memories of the racist campaign run by the Republican Senate campaign committee against Harold Ford in Tennessee in 2006. The low point of that campaign was the “Fancy Ford” Web site, where the Republicans showed pictures of Mr. Ford, along with expensive restaurants, high-end cigars and Playboy bunnies, all of whom were white. (Nudge. Nudge. Say no more.). What’s next?...

Many voters are wondering whether a McCain presidency would be an extension of Mr. Bush’s two disastrous terms. If the way Mr. McCain is running his campaign these days is an indication, Americans don’t have to wait until next January for the answer to that one.

Bush Watch Special: Bush's Failed Economy

ASIA: Breaking Free from Dollar Hegemony, Asia Times
U.S.:  Huge writedowns forecast for banks after Merrill Lynch's cut-price sale of debt, Times
U.S.:  Billion-dollar bankruptcies highest since 2003, Reuters

Bush Watch Special: Netroots Nation Summit

Ronnie Cummins: Netroots Nation or a Nation of Sheep: Nancy Pelosi and Al Gore Address Netroots Nation
Ari Melber: Netroots Summit Grapples with Bipartisan Attacks on Rule of Law
Ronnie Cummins: Netroots Nation at the Crossroads: Move Over MoveOn

Bush Watch Op-Eds: July

Obamarized? At Least He Delivers A Speech Well, Politex, Maureen Dowd

Suck You! Who's To Blame, Banks or Consumers?, Politex, David Brooks

Clueless Liar: McCain's Dumbed Down Economics, Frank Rich

Bubble Dancer: Obama Will Win, But Then What?, Paul Krugman

McBush Is Worse: The Obama Toon Flap, Politex, Smith

McBush Is Worse: When You're Wrong, Blame the Voters, Jerry Politex

McBush Is Worse: Obama Is Helping Conservatives, Harming Democrats, George Lakoff

McBush Is Worse: Even African-Americans Are Sick of the New Obama, Bob Herbert

Liar Bush: Bush Says He's For Strong Dollar As He Continues To Weaken It, Jerry Politex, Robert Kuttner

Dems Hall of Shame: Close To Half Voted Yes To Spy On Us, Protect Past Wiretapping Crimes

Baucus (D-MT), Bayh (D-IN), Carper (D-DE), Casey (D-PA), Conrad (D-ND), Feinstein (D-CA), Inouye (D-HI), Johnson (D-SD), Kohl (D-WI), Landrieu (D-LA), Lieberman (ID-CT), Lincoln (D-AR), McCaskill (D-MO), Mikulski (D-MD), Nelson (D-FL), Nelson (D-NE), Obama (D-IL), Pryor (D-AR), Rockefeller (D-WV), Salazar (D-CO), Webb (D-VA), Whitehouse (D-RI)

Note: All of the Republicans voted Yes, McCain was a no show, Webb is an Obama VP favorite.

Bush Watch Special: Killing Our Bill of Rights

U.S.: Bush's Justice Department repeatedly broke the law, New York Times
Journo: FISA vote 'step toward fascism'; ACLU sues gov't
US Senate passes surveillance law, BBC
Congressional Approval Falls to Single Digits for First Time Ever, Rasmussen
On July 4th We Celebrated Rule of Law; On July 9th Obama Helped Bury It, Gleen Grenwald
Bush Wiretap Bill Makes It Easier To Spy on Americans NYT Ed
AT+T, Verizon, etc. Went Along With Bush Illegal Wiretapping For "Multi-Billion Dollar Contracts" Salon
Senate Majority Approves Bush Illegal Wiretapping Without Looking At The Wrongdoing Evidence: Feingold
Obama Votes With Forces of Darkness, Hillary Says "No", Salon
Obama Supports "the continued growth of the lawless surveillance state", Glenn Greenwald
Obama Promised Filibuster To Defeat Warrantless Wiretapping, SF Chronicle Ed
Sellout: How Obama Won Wisconsin Primary With An Outright Lie, John Nichols
Majority of Dems Against Bill; Coward McCain a No Show, The Nation
Dems O-2 On Constitution; Feingold: Black Mark in US History , Raw

Op-Ed Roundup

Jane Mayer: The Battle For A Country’s Soul
Danny Schechter: Market Problem or System Collapse?
Jamison Foser: Carrying McCain’s Water Is Heavy Lifting
Frank Rich: How Obama Became Acting President

Michael Winship: The Torturing Company We Keep
Harvey Wasserman: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says The Reactor Revival Is NOT Ready For Prime Time
Marina Hyde: We Have A Drinking Problem, And It Makes Oil Seem Cheap
John Pilger: Obama, The Prince of Bait-and-Switch
Karen Von Hahn: ‘People Are Looking For Roots’
Tim Shorrock: Exposing Bush’s Historic Abuse of Power
Jennifer Gonnerman: Slammed: Welcome to the Age of Incarceration
Christopher Brauchli: KBR Revisited Again
Michael Reagan: US Military Recruits Children
Timothy Karr: Adelstein and Copps: Voices at the FCC for a Free and Open Internet

John Nichols: Impeachment Hearings Are the Appropriate and Necessary Next Step
Glenn Greenwald: The Parade of ‘Shrill, Unserious Extremists’ on Display at Today’s Impeachment Hearings
Cristina Page: HHS Proposal Undercuts State Birth Control Laws
Anna Sussman: Journalist Detained for Reporting
David Sirota: Six Little Words
Malinda Markowitz: Guarantee Healthcare for All
C. Dixon Osburn: The Days of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Are Numbered
Dave Lindorff: We’re a Nation of Lemmings
Katrina vanden Heuvel: Rethinking Afghanistan
Robert Weissman: The Scourge of the IMF
George Curry: Don’t Underestimate the Role Community Plays in Education
John Young: Shell Game on Women’s Health

Amy Goodman: Who’s Paying for the Conventions?
Robert Koehler: The Next New Yorker Cover
Gideon Levy: Caterpillar Fashion: Israel's Weapon of Mass Destruction
Johann Hari: Crime Problem? Just Lock ‘em in the Lavatory
Holly Sklar: Minimum Wage Raise Too Little, Too Late
Medea Benjamin: Urgent: The Peace Movement Needs a Strategy for Afghanistan!
The Brattleboro Reformer: To Serve, Protect and Follow the Law
Steve Chapman: McCain’s Confusion on Iraq
John Nichols: Cindy Sheehan Is Putting Impeachment on the Table
Patrick Detscher: Invest in the Future, Not in Nuclear Power
Robert Naiman: If the Iranians Are Confident in Their Chess, They May Accept ‘Freeze for Freeze’
Leonard Pitts Jr.: You Think Slavery Ended in 1865?
Haroon Siddiqui: Obama Already Setting Tone for US Foreign Policy …
George Monbiot: Don’t Be Fooled by the Climate Change Bill. Carbon Trading Torpedoes It

Jeremy Scahill: Blackwater Is Here to Stay
Robert Scheer: Obama on the Brink
Elizabeth de la Vega: Our National Water Policy…
Frida Berrigan: Avoiding Brinksmanship With Iran
Bruce Dixon: Obama (and Big Media) Turn Blind Eye to Israeli Apartheid
Janine di Giovanni: Spectres of Sarajevo
Juan Cole: Obama Is Saying the Wrong Things About Afghanistan
Pat LaMarche: For Failures, It Takes One to Know One
Richard Cizik/Trip van Noppen: Diverse Groups Coalesce to Protect Environment
Mark Morford: John McCain, Please Log On

Sean Gonsalves: The Gulag Americano
Robert Parry: Gitmo ‘Justice’ for US Citizens?
Dean Baker: Vicious Ideologue Renews Attack on Social Security
Yifat Susskind: G8 to Poor Women: Let Them Eat Dirt
Sami Ramadani: No U-Turn. Obama’s Stance on Iraq Is Chillingly Consistent
Jesse Jackson: System That Convicts Innocent Needs Reform
Jill Richardson: Gore, You Can Have Your Meat and Eat It Too
Sarah Wildman: The Global War on Sex Education
Hannes Artens: Iran Isolation Attempts Backfire
Al Meyerhoff: The Next Green President
Ed Kinane: Method in the Madness: Why They Want to Attack Iran

William Astore: Having the ‘Best Military’ Is Not Always a Good Thing
Chris Hedges: So Goes the Newsroom, the Empire and the World
Dave Zirin: COINTELPRO Comes to My Town: My First-Hand Experience With Government Spies
Bill Dienst: Gaza on Brink of Humanitarian Catastrophe
William Beeman: Playing Games With Iran
Marc Kielburger/Craig Kielburger: Treatment of Khadr Inexcusable
David Suzuki/Faisal Moola: Biodiversity Important for All of Us
Katrina vanden Heuvel: Going Green
Gary Younge: People See in Obama What They Want to See — That’s a Blessing and a Curse

McBush Watch (since 6/16/08)

U.S.: How Bush is wiping out McCain , Counterpunch
Bush failures may force McCain, Obama to make like FDR in 2009, Bloomberg
The Long Run: After 2000, McCain Learned to Work Levers of Power
McCain adviser linked to Bush 'cash for access' scandal
Iraqi PM's support of Obama 'bad news' for McCain
Video: Fiorina denies McCain's optimism about economy
Weapons for political conventions, Veterans oppose McCain
McCain denies Iraqis are requesting withdrawl timetable
'Straight talk' express leaves some waiting at station
U.S.: McCain jokes about killing Iranians with cigarettes, Reuters
McCain plan: Let taxpayers, not companies, subsidize health premiums
Video: McCain a 'changed man', 'dangerous' - Kerry
McCain, Obama both reaching out for 'mushy middle'
McCain-favored Supreme Ct. "adds to the number of Americans killed," allows "excruciating pain", NYT Ed
Olbermann lists McCain flip flops
Harvey Wasserman: Bush/McCain: Gas Price Scam Is an Enron Re-Run
McCain: considered one-term pledge?
McCain: Why Obama, Mac Are Willing To Diminish Our Bill of Rights, Bob Barr
McCain: Laughs off impeachment question
McCain: His People Fret About Weak Support Of Religious Right, AP
McCain: His Energy Policy "Basically Irrelevant," Says Krugman, Raw
McCain: Flip-Flops On Gitmo, LAT
McCain: Flip-Flops On Waterboarding, FAIR/Extra
McCain: Against Amtrack Funding, NYT
McCain: Bush neocons ever-present in McCain camp, AFP
McCain: Has Reversed on torture, tax cuts, Falwell, drilling --Kerry, Raw
McCain: Created 'Enron loophole', Raw
McCain: Flip-Flops on Energy During 7 Day Period, NYT
McCain: Lift Federal Ban on Offshore Oil Drilling, DN!
McCain: Supports Bush Supreme Ct. Scalia/Alito/Roberts/Thomas Philosophy, NYT
McCain: Retain Bush Tax Cuts, Add New Ones, NYT
McCain: 63% Say As Conservative/More Conservative Re Bush (CBS), NYT
McCain: Backs Bush on Economy, Health Care, Iraq , NYT
McCain: Supports Bush on Wiretaps, Torture, Gitmo, NYT
McCain: Supported Arizona Bill to Ban Same-Sex Marriage, NYT
McCain: Supported private accounts for Social Security, DN!
McCain: Gitmo Rights Ruling One of Court’s “Worst Decisions” Ever, DN!
McCain: Length of US Occupation of Iraq “Not Important”, DN!

Obama Watch (since 6/26/08)

U.S.:  Buffett joins Obama for a summit in Washington to solve economic crisis, Guardian
U.S.:  Obama's biofuels policy tension, BBC
U.K.:  Obama in London: He came, he saw, he sprinkled us with stardust, Guardian
Bush failures may force McCain, Obama to make like FDR in 2009, Bloomberg
Obama urges focus on Afghanistan, BBC
Iraqi leader stirs up US Presidential Campaign with praise for Obama, Spiegel
Sun shines on Obama's Iraq debut, Independent
Iraqi Prime Minister quoted as saying he backed Obama's plan to recall US troops within 16 months, Times
UK's Brown plans to withdraw troops as he backs Obama over 'war on terror', Independent

McCain eclipsed as TV anchors follow Obama's foreign trip, Guardian
  US foreign policy cannot begin and end with Iraq, warns Obama, Independent
Obama vows to end US role in Iraq, BBC
Barack Obama Writes: My Plan for Iraq
Obama Borrows Page From Clinton
US: McCain Backer Schwarzenegger Would Take Post Under Pro-Arnold Obama
Obama slams McCain 'mental' recession quip
Service: Obama Needs to Redefine Patriotism
Obama denies shifting to reach 'center'
Obama Is Helping Conservatives, Harming Democrats, George Lakoff

Even African-Americans Are Sick of the New Obama, Bob Herbert

What can we read into the would-be president's heavyweight bookshelves? Guardian
Barack Obama heads to London to begin European tour, Times
Growing Group of Conservatives back Obama, hoping for 'the anti-Bush'
Zogby: Obama has electoral college majority; Barr at 6%
Obama Pledges to Expand Bush Program to Funnel Federal Money to Religious Groups
NYT Editorial: New and Not Improved Obamma
AP analysis: Obama's shifts to center give GOP ammo
Obama Again Attacks Constitutional Protections
Obama, McBush both reaching out for 'mushy middle'
Obama flip-flops on pledge to end war within 16 months
Obama's shuffle to the right suggests this ruthles man not "another principled loser"
Olbermann scolds Obama on FISA
Progressive Group Dissatisfied With Obama Growing Fast, NYT
Obama Promises He'll Work To Strengthen Bush Church-State Link , NYT
Obama Lies About Where His Money Comes From, David Brooks
Obama Defends Hard-Right Colombia's Right To Invade Neighbors, Independent, UK
Obama Pledge Would Make ME Two-State Solution Impossible, Independent, UK
Why Obama, Mac Are Willing To Diminish Our Bill of Rights, Bob Barr
US: Conventional Politician Obama: A Pragmatist's Shift Toward the Center
Distrust Grows As Obama Tilts Toward Center, WSJ
Obama’s FISA Betrayal, Matthew Rothschild
Cowardly Obama, Clinton, McCain Simply Did Not Vote, Congress
AP: Obama Wants Death Penalty For Some Child Rape
Gareth Porter: The Imperialist Right Threatens Obama on Iraq
Glenn Greenwald: Obama, Telecoms and The Beltway System
John Nichols: Obama Goes Soft on Free Trade
Glenn Hurowitz: In Obama’s America, Road to Power No Longer Runs Through Law Firms

Special Topics At Bush Watch: Asia Diary: India... Bush Threat... Crisis Economy... Bush Budget... Oil Wars [updated]... Bush Dictatorship... 20 Dem Tasks... Path to 9/11... Israel and the U.S.... Framing Fascism... Bush's Economic Dictatorship [excellent overview]... The Big Picture: A New Paradigm ... 2004 Election Stolen? ... Updated News Archives ...

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Monday, July 28

Obamarized? At Least He Delivers A Speech Well, Politex, Maureen Dowd

Re his Berlin speech, which you can watch by clicking on the relevant photo in the left column, I was impressed by his ability to deliver a speech well. Wouldn't it be great to have a President who is not an embarrassment when he opens his mouth? As for the content, it was just as vague as his messianic primary speeches that duped seasoned progressives and the young into thinking he was one of them. He's not. He's a moderate politician who will not rock the boat and will say whatever it takes to win the presidency. Just like McBush. Once the left sees Obama for what he is, let's hope we can all get behind him, because he's the best we've got in this presidential race. To our way of thinking, a third party vote or a no vote is a vote for McBush. (While Obama spoke to Berliners, McBush ate a berliner at a German bakery in Ohio.)

David Brooks and others have criticized Obama for the vagueness of his Berlin speech, but we suspect that those same folks would have equally criticized the presumptuous of a presidential candidate being specific before a non-American audience. Taken in that context, the speech was carefully crafted and beautifully delivered, admitting past American (read Bush) mistakes and calling for having faith in greater cooperation between countries. As Obama said afterwards, "there is a concrete advantage to not only foreign leaders, but foreign populations liking the American president, because it makes it easier for Sarkozy to send troops into Afghanistan if his voting base likes the United States."

Maureen Dowd saw Obama's European leg of his journey as a budding love affair: "'You must want a cigarette after that,' I teased the candidate after the amorous joint press conference, as he flew from Paris to London for the finale of his grand tour." Dowd reports his further ruminations:

“I think we could work well together,” he said of [French president] Sarko, smiling broadly.

He did not get to meet his fan, [Sarko's wife] Carla Bruni. “She wasn’t there,” he said. “Which I think disappointed all my staff. That was the only thing they were really interested in.”

He admitted showing “extraordinarily poor judgment” in leaving Paris after only a few hours. Watching Paris recede from behind the frosted glass of his limo was “a pretty good metaphor” for how constricted his life has become, he said, compared with his student days tramping around Europe with “a feeling of complete freedom.”

“But the flip side is that I deeply enjoy the work,” he said, “so it’s a trade-off.” How do you go back to the Iowa farm after you’ve seen Paree?

“One of the values of this trip for me was to remind me of what this campaign should be about,” he said. “It’s so easy to get sucked into day-to-day, tit-for-tat thinking, finding some clever retort for whatever comment your opponent made. And then I think I’m not doing my job, which should be to raise up some big important issues.”

I asked how his “Citizen of the World” tour will go down in Steubenville, Ohio.

“There will probably be some backlash,” he said. “I’m a big believer that if something’s good then there’s a bad to it, and vice versa. We had a good week. That always inspires the press to knock me down a peg.”

...How does he like the McCain camp mocking him as “The One”?

“Even if you start believing your own hype, which I rarely do, things’ll turn on you pretty quick anyway,” he said. “I have a fairly steady temperament that has at times been interpreted as, ‘Oh, he’s sort of too cool.’ But it’s not real.”

Obama kept his cool through a week where he was treated as a cross between the Dalai Lama and Johnny Depp." --Maureen Dowd

Meanwhile, back in the states, the Obama VP search team floated Bush's first-term Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, among others, in discussions with members of Congress. Such a slap in the face to Hillary isn't gonna happen, I said to friends at dinner last night.

"But if he did, I just wouldn't vote this year."

"Good for you," a female shrink replied.

  Barack Obama – the world can expect better of America, Times
  Obama wows Berlin crowd with historic speech, Times
  Opinion: President No. 44 has spoken, Spiegel
  McCain's week goes from bad to worse, Guardian

Thursday, July 24

Suck You! Who's To Blame, Banks or Consumers?, Politex, David Brooks

This question generally splits along party lines: the Dems blame the banks and credit card people, the Repubs blame the consumers. I think both groups are to blame, but our culture has spent decades dumbing down the average citizen, so I blame the banks more than the consumers. Christine is even more pro-consumer than I am, since our educational system has failed to teach logic, economics, and the dangers of advertising and media manipulation to many of our students. As a recent NYT piece reports, credit card companies have targeted teenagers, attenpting to put them behind the credit debt 8-ball as early as possible: “'Today the focus for lenders is not so much on consumer loans being repaid, but on the loan as a perpetual earning asset,' said Julie L. Williams, chief counsel of the Comptroller of the Currency, in a March 2005 speech that received little notice at the time."

Both Christine and I don't agree with the government's leanings that allow private and semi-private corporations to weaken the controls and rules on the books by paying to have the laws changed, bending the resulting new controls and rules to suit their fancy, and sometimes commiting outright fraud and getting away with it. Why should our government allow this to happen through little oversight, and then bail out those corporations in the name of supporting the country's economic stability? This is a recipe for economic disaster, and that's what we're seeing today in the face of the Bear-Sterns, Freddie-Mac, and Fannie Mae bailouts: profits go to the stockholders, losses go to taxpayers. That's not the capitalism that Repubs talk about, but practice selectively, that's welfare to the wealthy.

David Brooks, a bright guy who is responsible for the term bobo and who has placed himself firmly in the Repub camp over the years, is a bit of a maverick, so he can see both sides of the story. In his latest op-ed, however, he concentrates on the failings of consumers, and writes little about the failings of the corporations. Having said that, his sociological analysis of the pressures placed upon the consumer are very insightful, and he calls it a "third position." --Jerry Politex

"This third position begins with the notion that people are driven by the desire to earn the respect of their fellows. Individuals don’t build their lives from scratch. They absorb the patterns and norms of the world around them. Decision-making — whether it’s taking out a loan or deciding whom to marry — isn’t a coldly rational, self-conscious act. Instead, decision-making is a long chain of processes, most of which happen beneath the level of awareness. We absorb a way of perceiving the world from parents and neighbors. We mimic the behavior around us. Only at the end of the process is there self-conscious oversight.

According to this view, what happened to [consumers], and the nation’s financial system, is part of a larger social story. America once had a culture of thrift. But over the past decades, that unspoken code has been silently eroded. Some of the toxins were economic. Rising house prices gave people the impression that they could take on more risk. Some were cultural. We entered a period of mass luxury, in which people down the income scale expect to own designer goods. Some were moral. Schools and other institutions used to talk the language of sin and temptation to alert people to the seductions that could ruin their lives. They no longer do. Norms changed and people began making jokes to make illicit things seem normal. Instead of condemning hyper-consumerism, they made quips about “retail therapy,” or repeated the line that Morgenson noted in her article: When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.

[Consumers] and the lenders were not only shaped by deteriorating norms, they helped degrade them. Despite all the subterranean social influences, there still is that final stage of decision-making when individual choice matters. Each time an avid lender struck a deal with an avid borrower, it reinforced a new definition of acceptable behavior for neighbors, family and friends. In a community, behavior sets off ripples. Every decision is a public contribution or a destructive act. And now the reckoning has come. The turn in the market punishes many of those seduced by financial temptations. (Sometimes capitalism undermines the Puritan virtues, but sometimes it reinforces them.)

Meanwhile, social institutions are trying to re-right the norms. The government is sending some messages. The Treasury and the Fed are trying to stabilize the system while still ensuring that those who made mistakes feel the pain. (*) But the important shifts will be private, as people and communities learn and adopt different social standards. After the Depression, a savings mentality set in. After the dot-com bubble, a bit of sobriety hit Silicon Valley. Now it’s the borrowers’ and lenders’ turn. As the saying goes: People don’t change when they see the light. They change when they feel the heat."

(*) I don't see how bailing out Bear Sterns, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac is punishing the corporations and individual stockbrokers who made "mistakes." "Important shifts" should be public as well as private. Peter S. Good writes in another NYT article, "Bailouts amount to mortgaging the future to stave off the wolf howling at the door. The likelihood of a painful reckoning is diminished, while the costs of a reckoning — should one come — are increased. The costs are getting big." --Politex

Monday, July 21

Clueless Liar: McCain's Dumbed Down Economics, Frank Rich

Simple math, to put it charitably, has never been [McCain's] forte. When it comes to the central front of American anxiety — the economy — his learning curve has flat-lined. In 2000, he told an interviewer that he would make up for his lack of attention to “those issues.” As he entered the 2008 campaign, Mr. McCain was still saying the same, vowing to read “Greenspan’s book” as a tutorial. Last weekend, the resolutely analog candidate told The New York Times he is at last starting to learn how “to get online myself.” Perhaps he’ll retire his abacus by Election Day.

Mr. McCain’s fiscal ineptitude has received so little scrutiny in some press quarters that his chief economic adviser, the former Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, got a free pass until the moment he self-immolated on video by whining about “a nation of whiners.” The McCain-Gramm bond, dating back 15 years, is more scandalous than Mr. Obama’s connection with his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Mr. McCain has been so dependent on Mr. Gramm for economic policy that he sent him to newspaper editorial board meetings, no doubt to correct the candidate’s numbers...

When the candidate said back in January that there’s nobody he knows who is stronger on economic issues than his old Senate pal, [Phil Gramm,] he was telling the truth. Left to his own devices — or those of his new No. 1 economic surrogate, Carly Fiorina — Mr. McCain is clueless. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger, a supporter, said that Mr. McCain’s latest panacea for high gas prices, offshore drilling, is snake oil....

The term flip-flopping doesn’t do justice to Mr. McCain’s self-contradictory economic pronouncements because that implies there’s some rational, if hypocritical, logic at work. What he serves up instead is plain old incoherence, as if he were compulsively consulting one of those old Magic 8 Balls. In a single 24-hour period in April, Mr. McCain went from saying there’s been “great economic progress” during the Bush presidency to saying “Americans are not better off than they were eight years ago.” He reversed his initial condemnation of mortgage bailouts in just two weeks.

In February Mr. McCain said he would balance the federal budget by the end of his first term even while extending the gargantuan Bush tax cuts. In April he said he’d accomplish this by the end of his second term. In July he’s again saying he’ll do it in his first term. Why not just say he’ll do it on Inauguration Day? It really doesn’t matter since he’s never supplied real numbers that would give this promise even a patina of credibility.

Mr. McCain’s plan for Social Security reform is “along the lines that President Bush proposed.” Or so he said in March. He came out against such “privatization” in June (though his policy descriptions still support it). Last week he indicated he isn’t completely clear on what Social Security does. He called the program’s premise — young taxpayers foot the bill for their elders (including him) — an “absolute disgrace.”

Given that Mr. McCain’s sole private-sector job was a fleeting stint in public relations at his father-in-law’s beer distributorship, he comes by his economic ignorance honestly. But there’s no A team aboard the Straight Talk Express to fill him in. His campaign economist, the former Bush adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin, could be found in the June 5 issue of American Banker suggesting even at that late date that we still don’t know “the depth of the housing crisis” and proposing that “monitoring is the right thing to do in these circumstances.”

Ms. Fiorina, the ubiquitous new public face of McCain economic policy, adds nothing to the mix beyond her incessant display of corporate jargon, from “trend lines” to “start-ups.” Before she was fired at Hewlett-Packard, its stock had declined 50 percent during her five-plus years in charge. She missed earning projections — by 23 percent in one quarter — much as she now misrepresents both the Obama and McCain records. This month she said Mr. McCain wanted to require insurance plans to cover birth control medications along with Viagra, when in fact he had voted against it.....Mr. McCain, sad to say, hung up his old maverick’s spurs the day he embraced the Bush tax cuts he had once opposed as “too tilted to the wealthy.”

Bush Watch Special: U.S. Rewards the Rich For Failure

Do Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Bailouts Favor the Companies?
One-fifth of the lenders' securities are held by foreign investors

Friday, July 18

Bubble Dancer: Obama Will Win, But Then What?, Paul Krugman

If you ask me, there isn’t much suspense in this year’s election: barring some extraordinary mistakes, Mr. Obama will win. Assuming he wins, the real question is what he’ll make of his victory....Home prices are in free fall. Unemployment is rising. Consumer confidence is plumbing depths not seen since 1980. When will it all end?

...Modern slumps...have been hangovers from bouts of irrational exuberance — the savings and loan free-for-all of the 1980s, the technology bubble of the 1990s and now the housing bubble. Ending modern slumps is much more difficult because the economy needs to find something to replace the burst bubble....The Onion, as usual, hit the nail on the head with its recent headline: “Recession-plagued nation demands new bubble to invest in.”

But we probably won’t find another bubble — at least not one big enough to fuel a quick recovery. And this has, among other things, important political implications. Given the state of the economy, it’s hard to see how Barack Obama can lose the 2008 election. An anecdote: This week a passing motorist shouted at a crowd waiting outside a branch of IndyMac, the failed bank, “Bush economics didn’t work! They are right-wing Republican thieves!” The crowd cheered.

But what the economy gives, it can also take away. If the current slump follows the typical modern pattern, the economy will stay depressed well into 2010, if not beyond — plenty of time for the public to start blaming the new incumbent, and punish him in the midterm elections. To avoid that fate, Mr. Obama — if he is indeed the next president — will have to move quickly and forcefully to address America’s economic discontent. That means another stimulus plan, bigger, better, and more sustained than the one Congress passed earlier this year. It also means passing longer-term measures to reduce economic anxiety — above all, universal health care....

Tuesday, July 15

McBush Is Worse: The Obama Toon Flap, Politex, Smith

TEST: If you favor Obama and are wearing your political hat, you won't think the NY's latest cover is funny. It won't win Obama any votes. If you favor Obama and are wearing your comedy hat, you'll probably think it's funny. If you favor McBush, you'll smile, no matter which hat you're wearing. How did you first respond? --Politex

Cable-Knit Cretins

Why, oh why – “Wad up wid dat, Jethro?”

My only problems with the latest, most salient of New Yorker covers are the facts.

This morning both campaigns were forced to notice and respond “oh no nay-nay’ only because the multifarious “wits” (a.k.a. fruit flies, nits) in the “free” press hadn’t gorged enough on that sort of sweet, silly stuff over the weekend to give up the quest. Like mayflies, they live but a day. But “It,” that slamming cover, was another of the candied truffles, which perhaps, God forgive me (as if I care), proves one too many a diseased treat for the Tony Snows of the world to resist. “We all loved him. What a wonderful liar,” every debt-burdened @$#^%& in the WH press corps averred.

Maybe they used to, but today no one knows how to portray with any accuracy the visages of the Lords Jesus or Mohammed. Though more genetically correct, the Black Jesus series has yet to become a fan favorite in the West. And Buddhic measures of obeisance as yet don’t depend on any over-the-top rendition of obesity, his girth. Graphic illiterates, this month’s purist Islamists are the Puritans from Sheol: Show them a sickly stick-figure Prophet drawn on a napkin and they immediately assume the position. Up go their damascened swords. And soon after it’s off with the heads, mein herren!

All things considered, East or West – we’re not that different. Thinking and honesty aren't our strong suits.

Bones all gone, the dust of Jonathan Swift still swirls. --William Smith

  Obama fails to see the funny side of cartoon satirising American fears, Independent
  Satirical Intent of Obama Cover Not Clear Enough, Says Cartoonist , E&P
  New Yorker Editor Likens Obama Cover to Colbert  , B&C
  Colbert Asks If Obama Should Become A Tibetan Buddhist, CC

Friday, July 11

McBush Is Worse: When You're Wrong, Blame the Voters, Jerry Politex

Now that the country knows what Bush Watch has been preaching all year, that Obama's idea of change is to have his family in the White House, while continuing politics as usual, what's an Obama Op-Ed writer to do? Blame the voters, of course.

Take the NYT's Gail Collins. Her Obama defense is that Obama is intelligent and you're not. It's not Obama's fault that you have poor listening skills:

"A year and a half of campaigning and we still haven’t heard Obama....It’s not his fault that we missed the message — although to be fair, he did make it sound as if getting rid of the “old politics” involved driving out the oil and pharmaceutical lobbyists rather than splitting the difference on federal wiretapping legislation. But if you look at the political fights he’s picked throughout his political career, the main theme is not any ideology. It’s that he hates stupidity. Most of the things Obama’s taken heat for saying this summer fall into these two familiar patterns — attempts to find a rational common ground on controversial issues and dumb-avoidance."

Obama agrees with Collins:

“Look, let me talk about the broader issue, this whole notion that I am shifting to the center,” he told a crowd gathered at a town hall-style meeting in this Atlanta suburb. “The people who say this apparently haven’t been listening to me.” NYT

On the other hand, the pro-Obama folks I talk to feel betrayed, leading one to think that his primary strategy grew out of a cynical belief in the irrationality of those on the left.

So, could Collins be talking about dumb pundits as well as dumb voters? George Lakoff provides such a list, but he's not interested in how Obama has fooled his progressive followers, but how his shift to the right will benefit conservatives:

"Barack Obama should not move, or even appear to be moving, toward right-wing views on issues -- even with nuanced escape clauses. Arianna Huffington, Paul Krugman, and the NY Times Editorial Page all agree, for various reasons. I agree as well...."

While Collins sees Obama's nuanced statements as the mark of an intellectual politician, I see them as something Bush did as Governor and repeated during the 2000 campaign and into his first term as President. Bush would propose something that had a bipartisan ring to it, if funds were provided to support the plan or to police those who would want to break its rules. Then money was never provided in those bills and nothing was later done to support such needed funding. Hence, when Obama calls "for rules to make certain [his] new council, [the Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships,] wouldn’t violate the separation of church and state," (NYT) the question is who will provide oversight to be sure the rules are followed? Bush didn't, and Obama has yet to provide any specifics suggesting that he will.

According to Lakoff, here's another example of Obama's weasel words:

"It is possible to add nuance to a policy to make it look like you are moving to the right without actually doing so in policy terms. This can seem to do double duty, avoiding criticisms without making really substantive changes. It is an illusion. When Obama ran for Senator in Illinois he had to at least appear to support Illinois industries -- coal, ethanol, and nuclear energy. He has used nuanced escape clauses, such as if it turns out to be economically feasible, while aware that sequestered coal, corn ethanol, and nuclear could not be economically feasible. Is this good politics? It may have been for a new senator, but it is not for a president."

But before writing Obama off as pandering to the right, it's well to remember that McBush is even worse. Again, the voters are to blame, according to ex-Senator Phil Gramm, McCain campaign co-chairman, UBS Investment Bank vice chairman and former economics professor, who "was quoted Thursday as saying that the United States was only in a 'mental recession' and that it had become a 'nation of whiners.'” This, as McBush was touring the rust belt, telling the voters that he feels their "hardship" of economic pain. (NYT) Obama's response, quoted in theWashington Post, was,

"[Gramm] said we're in a mental recession, I guess what he meant was it's a figment of our imagination, these high gas prices. It's not just a figment of your imagination, it's not all in your heads, when people are struggling with the rising cost of everything from gas to groceries ... this economic downturn is not in your head." Turning to the GOP nominee himself, Obama said "this comes after Senator McCain recently admitted his energy proposal for the gas tax holiday will have mainly 'psychological benefits.' Now I want all of you to know that America already has one Dr. Phil, we don't need another," he said. "When it comes to the economy, we need somebody who can actually solve the economy."

It appears that when the voters agree with the candidate, they're plenty smart, and when they don't, they're dumb, dumb, dumb.

Tuesday, July 8

McBush Is Worse: Obama Is Helping Conservatives, Harming Democrats, George Lakoff

Barack Obama should not be moving toward right-wing views on issues — even with nuanced escape clauses. Arianna Huffington, Paul Krugman and the NY Times Editorial Page all agree, for various reasons. I agree as well, for many of the same reasons, as well as important reasons that go beyond even excellent political commentary. My reasons have to do with results in the cognitive and brain sciences, as discussed in my recent book, The Political Mind: Why You Can’t Understand 21st Century Politics with an 18th Century Brain....

The usual political wisdom is (1) voters vote on the basis of positions on issues, (2) there is a left-to-right spectrum of voters defined by positions on issues, (3) most voters are in the “center.” Polls are constructed to appear consistent with this tripartite hypothesis. The Dick Morris strategy, based on this hypothesis, says: if a Democrat moves the Right, he will get more votes because he will “take away” the other side’s issues. If Obama and his advisors believe this, then the more they more to the Right, the bigger their win should be. But all three hypotheses are false, and so is the conclusion based on it....

[Obama's] bipartisanship that involves adopting, or appearing to adopt, right-wing views... strengthens conservative thought in the brains on those biconceptuals and weakens progressive thought. In short, it actually helps conservatives. Rather than “taking arguments away from them” it strengthens their basic values and hence all their arguments. It give conservatives more reason, not less, for voting for conservatives. If Obama adopts, or appears to adopt, right-wing positions, he may still win, since McCain is such a weak candidate. But it will hurt Democrats running for office all up and down the ticket, since it will strengthen general conservative positions on all issues and hence work in the favor of conservative candidates. As has often been said, if you are a conservative, why vote for the progressive spouting conservative views when you can vote for a real conservative? In short, if Obama adopts, or appears to adopt, right-wing views, he will not only hurt himself, but also hurt other Democrats. more

McBush Is Worse: Even African-Americans Are Sick of the New Obama, Bob Herbert

Only an idiot would think or hope that a politician going through the crucible of a presidential campaign could hold fast to every position, steer clear of the stumbling blocks of nuance and never make a mistake. But Barack Obama went out of his way to create the impression that he was a new kind of political leader — more honest, less cynical and less relentlessly calculating than most. You would be able to listen to him without worrying about what the meaning of “is” is. This is why so many of Senator Obama’s strongest supporters are uneasy, upset, dismayed and even angry at the candidate who is now emerging in the bright light of summer....

So there he was in Zanesville, Ohio, pandering to evangelicals by promising not just to maintain the Bush program of investing taxpayer dollars in religious-based initiatives, but to expand it. Separation of church and state? Forget about it....And there he was, in the midst of an election campaign in which the makeup of the Supreme Court is as important as it has ever been, agreeing with Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas that the death penalty could be imposed for crimes other than murder. What was the man thinking?...Obama supporters flooded [his website] with protests over his decision to support an electronic surveillance bill that gives retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. The senator had previously promised to filibuster the bill if it contained the immunity clause.

There has been a reluctance among blacks to openly criticize Senator Obama, the first black candidate with a real shot at the presidency. But behind the scenes, there is discontent among African-Americans, as well, over Mr. Obama’s move away from progressive issues, including his support of the Supreme Court’s decision affirming the constitutional right of individuals to bear arms. There’s even concern that he’s doing the Obama two-step on the issue that has been the cornerstone of his campaign: his opposition to the war in Iraq.

[Obama] seems to believe that his shifts and twists and clever panders — as opposed to bold, principled leadership on important matters — will entice large numbers of independent and conservative voters to climb off the fence and run into his yard. Maybe. But that’s a very dangerous game for a man who first turned voters on by presenting himself as someone who was different, who wouldn’t engage in the terminal emptiness of politics as usual. more

Monday, July 6

Liar Bush: Bush Says He's For Strong Dollar As He Continues To Weaken It, Jerry Politex, Robert Kuttner

Speaking at the White House Monday, Bush tried to give the markets a nudge, reports Bloomberg's James G. Neuger: "We're strong dollar people in this administration and have always been for the strong dollar." That's nonsense, of course, and Bush is an unabashed liar. That's what happens when the country elects a cheerleader as President. The fact is Bush policies have weakend the dollar since he's been President.

Since Bush came into office, our national debt has increased from $5.7 trillion to $9.5 trillion, and the dollar makes up 63% of the global currency reserves, down from 71% when Bush took office, Neuger writes. During Bush's term the dollar has dropped 41% agains the euro, and U.S. economic growth is a dismal 0.5%, second worst of the G-8 countries. From what McBush has said about the economy thus far, he wouldn't be any better. "Although he once held very different views, Mr. McCain’s biggest similarity to Mr. Bush now is on the economy," reports the NYT's Elisabeh Bumiller in a June 17th story.

Bush's weak-dollar policy was spelled out by Robert Kuttner in a Business Week article published in 2005. Three years later, Bush is still carrying out his wrong-headed economic policy, as the nation drops deeper and deeper down the money pit:

"The Bush Administration is failing on three counts: First, mounting budget deficits increase the need for foreign borrowing and add to pressure on the dollar. Second, not having a serious energy policy intensifies U.S. dependence on imported oil and widens the trade deficit. And third, the Administration isn't even attempting to manage the dollar's decline, relying instead on the whims of money markets." more

'Recession of uncertain depth and duration' seen in grim job figures , Free Internet Press
Bush's dollar drop maps loss of US clout at final G-8 Summit, Bloomberg
Saudi King: get used to high gas prices , Breitbart

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